One of the biggest responses I’ve seen with the release of the new England&Wales data is concerning the number of so-called nicknames dominating our popular names, for example 4 of the name in our Top 10 for boys have origins as nicknames – Harry, Jack, Alfie & Charlie.
One comment that stood out to me in particular was this:
I don’t see anything classier about nickname names than modern constructions. Alfie and Charlie can go sit in the corner with Jayden and Addison as far as I am concerned.
As a Brit, I feel I need to talk about the subject, and almost defend our plentiful usage of nicknames. I do truly believe that there are plenty of fabulous reasons to why registering your son as Charlie, not Charles is the way to go.
I would admit right here, right now that some of these reasons have a slant towards a British playground, because it’s clear that a nickname on the birth certificate will always work better in a country where it’s a commonplace practice. Also, I’m not necessarily saying that the nickname trend is without it’s faults, but there are also a few faults with the idea of not allowing nicknames on birth certificates too.
I guess, at the end of the day, it’s a matter of personal discretion and perhaps the way forward takes a little from each side.
That said, I still managed to put together 10 potential reasons why you may chose to use Charlie over Charles.
1. Many nicknames are taken as they are these days, rather than being assumed to be short for something
Plenty of so-called nicknames are these days taken as they are, without people wondering what on earth Alfie is short for, because hey, there are plenty more Alfies running around the park these days than Alfreds.
This of course, is a more cultural based argument, because I’m sure in some places Henry is more popular than Harry (hello USA) and there will always be exceptions depending on where you live.
Suffice to say however, the chances of someone asking your child what Harry is short for has become rather more slight as years have gone by. One could even argue that it would be Henry nn Harry that would attract raised eyebrows in a quaint English nursery, rather than a kid who is just simply Harry.
2. Using a formal name and a nickname simultaneously can cause confusion
Did you watch the closing ceremony for the 2012 Olympics? If you watched close enough, you’d have noticed that Prince Harry was introduced as Prince Henry of Wales, and Twitter almost exploded with people calling out the gaffe. What they failed to realise is that Prince Harry is indeed called Henry, but since birth has gone almost exclusively by Harry.
That’s perhaps a rather more high profile case, but I also have personal experience of this too. My mother has a cousin named Maeve, who goes by Marie.
However, I needed my Nana to confirm this one to me because when my mother had mentioned her a week earlier, she then had to add on that she had no idea whether her cousin’s ‘real’ name is Maeve or Marie because she’s always answered to both.
3. Nicknames lend themselves nicely to simplicity-seekers
This acts as an extension of #2, and comes with another tale from my own life.
I know a family of three children named Amy, Tom & Mia; the parents purposefully chose to stick to 3-letter names because of the perceived complexity of their surname, which is no less than 9-letters in total (of course, my surname has 8 letters but that didn’t stop my parents using Heather). In their quest for shortness, they ended up using two nicknames (Tom&Mia) and a name commonly used as a nickname (Amy).
And you know what? It totally works for them.
Juggling a formal name and a nickname may not be the way for some, who’d prefer to just pick one name and stick with it, in which case, Archie rocks.
4. Swapping from Charlie to Charles isn’t so easy
I wasn’t particularly old when I decided to start using Lou instead of Lucy, but by then I’d already built up a core group of friends. What this means is that I’m not exclusively called Lou, so answer to both names on a daily basis. As far as I can tell, only great determination on my part will remedy this, and really, I’m far too laid back to actually force people to switch to using Lou. In which case, it’s likely only me that has this problem 🙂
5. Some people just don’t like the formality of a ‘proper’ name
I have a friend with the name Caroline, and she hates it. To her, Caroline is the name of a middle-aged lady and the reasoning that hey, Caroline is more professional than Carly just doesn’t go down well with her.
I have to agree with her, saying a lady named Maisie won’t get a job in, say, politics smacks of elitism to my ears. Then again, this is the country that elected this man as the mayor of our capital city:
In a similar vein, I saw an argument the other day that someone wouldn’t want to trust their brain with a neurosurgeon called Katie, which I found to be a little bit extreme. Let’s face facts, young Katie has already sat through many vigorous tests to prove she’s a capable neurosurgeon, so there’s really no reason to doubt her expertise. I can speak from personal experience, because one of my GPs is actually called Katie, and it’s never once crossed my mind that I should be doubting her advice because of her name. That said, another GP at our surgery is called Dr. Bond…
And, point of fact, a new show started up on the BBC called Bad Education, where the main character, a teacher, is called Alfie. That said, the lead character of Alfie is described in the press release as the worst teacher to ever (dis)grace a British education institution. But then we have the half-decent biology teacher called Rosie…
6. Some people just plain don’t like Thomas
And by some people, I’m including myself in there, too. I adore the name Tommy, mostly because of early days spent watching Rugrats, but hey, can you think of another name to take Tommy from as a nickname? The best I could come up with was Thompson, or maybe Bartholomew at a push, but I somewhat doubt that the parents using Tommy will go for Bartholomew.
The idea of making people put a name on a birth certificate they just plain don’t like, so they can then call their child another much-loved name is borderline ludicrous when you think about it. Who are we to dictate what someone else wants to call their child? There’s also no guarantee that little Tommy will want to be called Thomas when he grows up, and Tommy can always shorten to Tom should he really not want to use Tommy.
7. Not all nicknames are cutesy, whilst some cutesy names aren’t nicknames
Sometimes people seem to forget this, and whilst yes there are plenty of nicknames with the cutesy factor, there are plenty more that forgo this. Think Sam, Max and Jack as examples.
Thinking about the opposite, two names in our Top 100 are Daisy (#20) and Maisie (#22). Whilst Maisie has origins as a nickname, Daisy is a perfectly coined floral name. Perhaps this is personal opinion, but I think both are as cutesy as the other, but if we follow the proper-names-on-birth-certificates-only rule, Daisy would be perfectly acceptable, but not Maisie?
Of course, you could argue that Daisy is also too cutesy to be a formal name anyway, at which point I throw my arms up in the air with despair.
8. You don’t know your child’s opinion of their name ahead of time
Remember Caroline from #5? She’s back, because she helps demonstrate this point too; indeed, let’s also bring back Amy, Tom & Mia from point #3. Caroline hates having a formal name, whilst Mia dislikes the cutesy-nickname factor of her name.
The basic point: some people actually like having nicknames on their passport. It’s all a matter of opinion.
9. You may not realise that names like Polly started off life as nicknames
I once posted a question on Formspring asking people what their favourite form of Mary was, and alongside the question I listed various names that stem from Mary. One such name was Polly, and this was called out by one commentee asking how on Earth Polly could be related to Mary. Why, she’s an old nickname for Mary, of course – but should we still be insisting that it’s Mary nn Polly?
10. Some legit proper names are often used as nicknames
Let’s use my name, and Anna as examples here. Some people use Lucy as a nickname for names like Lucille, whilst Anna is a popular nickname choice for Annabel, amongst others. However, both are proper names in their own right, and people seem to forget this – especially when it comes to Lucy. Adding Molly to the sibset of Lucy & Anna doesn’t exactly seem as if it strays off the path, stylewise.
So, there we have it. Feel free to disagree, hey, we’ve all got differing opinions and that’s what makes life so great.